Tips for Trade Show Success: Part I

March 9, 2016

Angelyn DeYoung is the International Trade Manager for the Office of Trade & International Relations in the Montana Department of Commerce

As many of us know, Trade Shows can be a prime location to seal deals and make new connections. This is the first of a three part Tradeology blog series to help your business succeed at the next trade show. Stay tuned for part two.

At the Show

Anyone who has exhibited at one or more trade shows inevitably has a horror story to share: missing graphics, lost shipments, brochures lost in the mail, booths breaking during setup, etc.  While these are indeed terrible incidents, the real horror stories are those of companies from the United States traveling halfway around the world to exhibit at a trade show, spending $15,000 – $20,000 cash, plus countless employee hours…and then spending most of the show on their iPhone, or not taking the time after the show to properly follow-up on leads.

The good news is: these are preventable errors – this doesn’t have to be you!

Show floor

Trade Show

Make the most of your time

You’ve just traveled halfway across the globe, committing 24 hours or more to the process.  While exhibiting at the trade show is your main objective and will take up most of your time, with these tips you can maximize your time away from the office.

  • Attend any relevant educational sessions the show offers.  This is a great way to network with buyers and other suppliers while also gaining critical industry intelligence.
  • Attend all of the networking opportunities (e.g. receptions, cocktail hours, etc.).  I know, after 10 hours on the show floor, the idea of standing and talking to people for two more hours sounds awful, but it’s worth it.  Your best client could be there and finally ready to make the deal.
  • Arrange appointments with new or current clients.  Whether you get a dinner meeting with them for the day before or after the show, or you set an appointment for them to meet you at your booth during the show, this is a guarantee that you’ll make a handful of useful connections at the show.
    • For current clients, reach out to them to find out if they’re planning on attending the show.  If so, most shows offer free entrance for your invited buyers, so you can offer that as an incentive for them to visit you.
    • For new clients, it is a bit trickier.  If you don’t already have contact information for buyers in the area, see if the show provides a free attendee list online, or if they provide one you can purchase.  Usually you can save money by requesting a targeted attendee list (using your buyer criteria) from the show organizers, rather than the entire list.
    • The US Commercial Service’s Gold Key Matching Service is a cost-effective option for setting up appointments at international trade shows with potential clients.  I can’t recommend this highly enough!
  • Stay after the show to connect with local interested buyers.  There is a good chance that you will connect with a potential client at the show who is in the same city as the show.  How impressed would they be if you were able to schedule a follow-up visit with them the day after the show?

The key to this is that you’re not just sitting at your booth and hoping that the right clients walk by.  You’re being proactive and making the most of your travel.


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